REVEALED: Why Tel Aviv Heat missed Euro cut
REACTION: Axed from the controversial Mzansi Challenge on political grounds, Tel Aviv Heat came within a whisker of facing South African teams in Europe.
@rugby365com can reveal that Georgian outfit Black Lion – who along with the Currie Cup champion Cheetahs received invites to take part in the 2023-2024 Challenge Cup – edged the Israeli outfit by a hairbreadth.
The two teams – Cheetahs and Black Lion – were offered invitations to participate following a detailed and competitive tender process by the Challenge Cup organisers.
EPCR said in a statement it received interest from clubs across Europe and beyond – including an impressive application from Tel Aviv Heat, Israel’s first professional club.
The Heat has been performing strongly in the Rugby Europe Super Cup – losing to Lion in the Final.
EPCR, in a letter to the Heat, said that the Israeli team only lost out because in the organisers’ opinion, they were not convinced the Heat had the depth to sustain a full campaign.
The Georgian team managed to beat their Israeli rivals twice in the first season of the Super Cup – 33–10 and 52-28.
However, in Season Two the Heat drew 25-all with the Lion in Georgia and then beat them 24-18 in Israel.
In the Final, Lion triumphed 29-17 in a spiteful encounter.
Coming so close to qualifying for a place in Tier Two of Europe’s leading tournaments, is scant consolation for a team that was denied participation in South Africa’s Mzansi League in a manner that was heavily criticised by World Rugby.